Photo: How to bike to work

Don't use strobe lights. Fun at night clubs but annoying for other cyclists and motorists because they can be blinding. (Credit: Jodi Stark)

Happy bike to work week!

I walk. It would take me longer to bike and honour the stop signs. So, I quiz fellow staffers — Karianne, Jodi, Akua, Barry, Jeremy, Theresa, Monica, Todd and Calvin — for bike to work dos and don'ts for a safe and fun commute:

Bike to work dos

Be assertive. You're a vehicle when you ride a bike. Take the lane. And stay at least one metre away from all parked cars to avoid being doored.

Be seen, be heard. Wear reflective clothes or tape and many lights at night; use a bell to make your intentions known.

Clean your chain. A dirty chain leads to wear and tear on the gears. A clean chain equals a smooth and enjoyable ride.

(Tip: Use an old toothbrush and a dollop of nontoxic dish soap to remove chain gunk. Then, oil it once it's clean.)

Double (or triple) your travel time. Do you ride with precious cargo? Kids are heavy. And it's fun for them if they can get out and explore along the way!

Ergonomics. Most bike shops can help fit your bike properly. Chances are your seat is too low. Get the biggest bang for your effort when you can extend your leg fully.

Keep your head up. Pay attention to what's going on around you. Make eye contact with drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists.

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Ride in a straight line. It's safer and more predictable for drivers — makes it easier for them to see you. Being squeezed against parked cars? Slow down and look for heads in parked car driver's seats. And consider switching your route to avoid contentious spots.

Ride in the rain! It always turns out better than you think. Invest in breathable rain gear.

Signal. Hand signals show intent, left and right turns, slowdowns and obstacles. Other riders and motorists will thank you.

Sing. It's a great breathing exercise! People will hear you coming, and it's fun! I guarantee you'll be in a good mood when you arrive at work.

Stretch. Show some love to your quads and iliotibial bands if you ride daily.

Take your time. Enjoy the ride — it's not a race! Hauling kids? Choose a route that will be interesting for them and make it an experience they'll enjoy.

Use mirrors. Look for faces in car side-mirrors, or peek inside parked or stopped cars to see if they're occupied as you approach. It will give you the time to decide whether you need to slow down, go around or stop and avoid getting doored.

Bike to work don'ts

Don't give cyclists a bad name. Bombing through red lights and stop signs is not cool. It creates more friction between cyclist and drivers, says everyone. Blowing a red light or stop sign is behaving like a bad driver.

Don't make it about getting from A to B. Biking should be less stressful than driving in rush-hour traffic, or standing on a crammed, hot bus.

Don't ride on the sidewalk. It's against the law.

Don't take the same route you drive. Choose a cycling route that's safe, stress-free and scenic (even if it's longer). You'll avoid getting to your destination with your heart in your throat and white knuckles.

Don't use strobe lights. Fun at night clubs but annoying for other cyclists and motorists because they can be blinding.

Don't wear black. Dark colours are hard to see, especially at night and in the rain.

And for motorists, here's how NOT to door a cyclist:

Please check your mirror, then look over your shoulder before you open the door — especially if you've parked on a street with a bike lane.

What's your bike to work tip?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

May 27, 2014

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Jul 03, 2014
12:13 PM

I wish cars were better at sharing the road with cyclists. I have too many near misses to be altogether comfortable with it. :(

Jun 21, 2014
5:29 PM

I ride every day! Those were great tips. I’d add:

Invest in a good basket, panniers or backpack. Stuff dangling from handle bars is dangerous — throws off your balance and can swing into your wheel.

Wear a helmet! Whether or not it is mandated in your province/state. Even the best riders can have accidents. And you can’t expect your kids to do it unless you provide a good example.

I also try to glance over my shoulder when I hear car overtaking me so that they can pass me with confidence knowing that I realize they are there.

And put your cell phone away!

Jun 20, 2014
1:00 PM

I’ve had to change my bike route to avoid getting clipped by cars (which was happening weekly). It adds 1.5 km to my ride to/from work, but it is well worth not having a heart attack. On that note, I wish there was a way to quickly get a licence plate of cars that won’t give me the full lane or that clip me because they won’t treat me like a car on the road. They deserve a huge fine for being so reckless.

Jun 09, 2014
7:11 AM

Thank you! Very useful!

Jun 03, 2014
3:36 PM

Drivers: train yourself to open your door with your right hand. That way you are forced to turn and look outside the vehicle before you open your door.

May 29, 2014
12:04 PM

These are really nice tips. My bike to work tip is for people who bike often. I noticed that I used to get realy angry at people driving cars in less than bike friendly ways and I would bike more aggressively, but I have come to realize that you can be as angry as you want but if you get hit you’re the only one who’s going to get hurt. I feel it’s important to always be aware no matter how disrespectful a driver is your life is more important than being right.

May 28, 2014
11:34 AM

Nice article! Very useful reminder for experienced people about the pleasures of riding to work :) Great and essential info for the newbies.

However, I notice you don’t mention one thing that, I believe, should be a HUGE DON’T: blasting music into your earphones while riding. It prevents bike users from hearing other vehicles and being as aware of their surroundings as they should be. I have seen people do that so many times and it can be so dangerous. Music might be okay at a lower intensity, as long as your attention isn’t taken away from what matters most: the traffic, and as long as you can hear cars, bikes and walking peers. Cheers!


May 28, 2014
10:17 AM

i always say to myself when i’m coming to a stop, “if i want to be treated like a car act like a car.” that means dont sneak past cars on the shoulder while they are stopped at a light, you want them to give you your lane, give them theirs.

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